The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has hired Andy Woods, a former U.S. Open champion and more recently a judge at events like the X Games, to coach the first U.S. Freeskiing pro halfpipe team through the sport's Olympic debut in 2014.
Woods first interviewed with USSA in April and was informed he'd gotten the job earlier this month by Mike Jankowski, head coach of the U.S. Snowboarding and U.S. Freeskiing national teams. One of the reasons Woods was hired, said U.S. Freeskiing director Jeremy Forster, is because of his already close relationship with Evan Raps, who was recently named coach of the U.S. Freeskiing slopestyle team. Raps and Woods competed together then judged together for the Association of Freeskiing Professionals.
Despite the mostly different athlete rosters, Forster envisions the halfpipe and slopestyle programs complementing each other under the broader U.S. umbrella. Therefore, collaboration between coaches will be crucial, he said. "Both of them have knowledge in both pipe and slope, and I think they're going to make a great team," Forster said.
Woods, for his part, added: "I value Raps' opinion about as much as an opinion can be valued."
Woods' hiring marked one of the final major moves by Jankowski and Forster, who have spent much of the offseason building the U.S. Freeskiing program. Forster said the U.S. halfpipe team members were consulted before they offered the job to Woods, who recently turned 30 and has known team members such as Simon Dumont, Jess Reedy and Jen Hudak since they were teenagers -- or, in Dumont's case, even younger.
"I think there's a lot of good skiers out there, but in terms of teams, I think we're going to do pretty well," Woods said from his home in Chapel Hill, N.C. "I think I inherited something that's going to make me look pretty good."
Woods grew up in Georgia, Vt., pop. 4,300, and spent a number of years among the world's elite freeskiing competitors, peaking in the pipe with a second-place finish at the U.S. Open (a year after he won Big Air) and fifth place at the 2002 Winter X Games. He also filmed with TGR, Level 1, Matchstick and Poor Boyz. After his competitive career ended in 2007, he turned to judging.
Woods has spent the past week reaching out to team members and planning his new life. Though he intends to maintain a base in Chapel Hill, where he recently moved to be with his girlfriend after a stint in Boston, he expects to spend much of his winter on the road or in Park City, Utah, where U.S. Freeskiing is headquartered.
His travels begin on Thanksgiving Day, when Woods flies to Colorado for the team's first training camp in advance of the season-opening U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain in early December.